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Student voice or uninformed response? CMS assignment poll sparks concern

The CMS board spent weeks reviewing survey questions and wants the results to include student views.
The CMS board spent weeks reviewing survey questions and wants the results to include student views.

With feelings running high about all things related to student assignment, some parents objected Tuesday to word that students at Ardrey Kell High were urged to complete a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools poll about diversity, neighborhood schools and academic options.

The school board spent weeks planning the poll, which is designed to gauge public attitudes about an ongoing review of assignment policies. Members said during those planning sessions that they wanted older students to take part.

CMS officials encouraged all residents to participate, especially as Monday’s closing date neared.

Students were asked to rate how much they value such things as exposure to students from diverse racial and economic backgrounds, ability to attend neighborhood schools and exposure to various academic themes. They were also asked to rate the importance of boundaries, diversity, teacher quality and other factors on academic achievement, and to agree or disagree with methods for reducing concentrations of poverty in schools.

Boe Clark, an Ardrey Kell High parent, took to Facebook and Twitter Tuesday saying that school’s push for student participation is an outrage. Clark is an organizer of a new group promoting neighborhood schools and expansion of magnets.

“After parents have advised that their kids had no idea what they were responding to or how to respond, this leads me to believe that CMS School Board is NOT acting in good faith,” Clark posted on Facebook. “I encourage you to FLOOD your school board members in boxes and voicemail boxes to express your disgust, concern over the validity of any results from the survey, and concern over the legality of this action by the CMS School Board.”

The message, also circulated on Clark’s new #ALLCMSKIDS Twitter account, sparked questions and discussion.

“Have you heard about this? Minors are being now asked to fill this in without having been provided any education on what the issues all are and what consequences it could have for them – this is just wrong,” said Nana Tennhardt, a CMS parent who forwarded an email chain that included the Facebook post.

“My 15 year old does not even know what a student assignment plan is and what it means for his chances to stay at his current school which he loves,” Tennhardt added.

I asked the CMS public information office about the concerns and whether students were required to take part.

“At no time were students required to take the student assignment survey,” said spokeswoman Yaviri Escalera. “CMS high school students have a valuable perspective based on their years of experience in the district. They participate in a number of surveys throughout the year and we look forward to hearing their voices as part of the student assignment conversation.”

The board expects to get survey results in March.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms